Australia is at a crossroads in the global hydrogen race – and one path looks risky

Authors: Thomas Longden, Fiona J. Beck, Frank Jotzo, Richard Andrews, Mousami Prasad | ‘Clean’ hydrogen? An analysis of the emissions and costs of fossil fuel based versus renewable electricity based hydrogen | Australian National University | Published 25 March 2021

The Australian National University’s Centre for Climate & Energy Policy released a report at the end of March 2021 that analysed the emissions and costs of fossil fuel based versus renewable electricity based hydrogen.

The analysis shows that producing hydrogen from fossil fuels carries significant risks. The process can emit substantial greenhouse gas emissions – and capturing these emissions at a high rate may make the process more expensive than hydrogen produced from renewable energy.

These findings have big implications as Australia looks to become a hydrogen superpower.

Hydrogen produced using fossil fuel feed stocks causes greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, even when carbon capture and storage (CCS) is used. By contrast, hydrogen produced using electrolysis and zero-emissions electricity does not create GHG emissions. Several countries advocating the use of ‘clean’ hydrogen put both technologies in the same category. Recent studies and strategies have compared these technologies, typically assuming high carbon capture rates, but have not assessed the impact of fugitive emissions and lower capture rates on total emissions and costs. We find that emissions from gas or coal based hydrogen production systems could be substantial even with CCS, and the cost of CCS is higher than often assumed. At the same time there are indications that electrolysis with renewable energy could become cheaper than fossil fuel with CCS options, possibly in the nearterm future. Establishing hydrogen supply chains on the basis of fossil fuels, as many national strategies foresee, may be incompatible with decarbonisation objectives and raise the risk of stranded assets.

Read more about the Report in this article on The Conversation website, authored by Dr Thomas Longden, Dr Fiona Beck, and Prof Frank Jotzo

Access the Report (external link to the ANU Climate Change Institute’s website)

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